Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Good Question

I love questions that make me think ... yesterday someone asked me to describe "the perfect man". Interesting question, huh? I have interesting friends :)

So I tried to answer the question ... and this is what I came up with ...

"I used to have a perfect answer for this. I could give you a very neat list of all the attributes that would equal perfect. Then I realized that being able to check off all the items didn't make someone perfect. I threw that list away. Soooo ... the perfect man would allow me to just be who I am and accept me and all my pieces. He would laugh with me and make me laugh. He would be willing to both give and receive within the relationship. He would be gentle, but not weak. He would be confident and know who he is and who he is becoming. He would have his own life and not expect me to create that for him. He would be a gentleman and allow me to be a lady. I will never be in a relationship with someone that I could ignore ... or who could ignore me. I want that spark. Wow ... this was a jumble, huh?"

It was a good question.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Home Again

Jenna took a moment to stand quietly in the warmth of the sun on the sidewalk. She wanted to absorb the colors of the flower garden, the scent of roses, the sound of water flowing from the fountain, the blue of the sky and the green of the grass. Somehow these things, in this moment in front of her mother’s house, gave her strength and made her stand a bit taller.

She crossed the flagstones, climbed the two steps onto the porch, past the bench that had been there since her childhood, and then stood before the carved mahogany door. Taking a deep breath, she touched a finger to the scrolled doorbell, hearing the chime beyond respond to her touch. Sounds of movement told her that within moments, she would be face to face with her mother for the first time in three years … three very long years. The years had carried the occasional stilted phone call, letters exchanged but never truly responded to and the occasional email discussing the weather. Silent years that had taught Jenna that talking and communicating were not at all the same.

The lock clicked and the door swung open, the scent of the house reaching her first. Rose petals, cinnamon, her mother’s perfume, oranges, and a faint hint of pine cleaner wrapped her in decades of memories – a potpourri of mingled scents as much a part of ‘home’ as the house itself. She fought the urge to run … at the same time resisting the need to simply throw herself into her mother’s arms. This time she would stand her ground. This time she would step through that doorway as herself or not at all. This time there would be no make-believe.

Her mother stood in disbelief, taking a moment to recover from the shock of seeing her only daughter on her doorstep. For that tiny instant, all of the uncertainty, the muddled history, the guilt, and even the love, were there in her eyes in plain sight – only to be quickly swept away. For a flash in time, Jenna thought she saw the sheen of tears there as well, but it was only a reflection of her heart’s wish she had glimpsed – not reality at all. A smiling mask dropped into place as arms reached for Jenna. “Darling girl, what a wonderful surprise! How on earth did you get here? I’m so happy to see you."

She reached to take one of her mother’s outreached hands into her own, moving into the house, one foot in front of the other on the gleaming wood floor.

“Are you tired? Hungry? You should have told me you were coming … I could have had a hot meal for you … meatloaf … banana pudding. Oh, never mind, come on, let’s see what we can find.” Jenna allowed herself to be led to the kitchen by the chattering woman. Mutely she accepted the glass of iced tea placed in her hand and stood looking out onto the patio, watching the hummingbirds busily fluttering at the bright red feeder as her mother bustled around behind her. “Papa and I had baked chicken last night. Why don’t I warm that for you with a nice baked potato? Doesn’t that sound good? Would you rather have just a sandwich now? Then maybe we’ll go down to Rosita’s for dinner later on … after you’ve had time to rest. Yes, that’s what we’ll do.”

Turning and gently placing her glass on the table top, Jenna sat heavily on a chair and whispered, “Mama, please …I haven’t seen you in three years. Three years, Mama. I’m not hungry. Please stop. I didn’t come all this way to be fed. Please just sit with me.”

Her mother sat across the table from her, hands still busily folding and unfolding the tea towel in her lap. She was still quite an attractive woman, even at seventy-five – hair carefully arranged in the latest trend, fingertips perfectly manicured, clad stylishly in the latest designer jeans and a t-shirt that had probably cost as much as Jenna made in a month. Here she sat, this woman who had given birth to her, in her meticulously crafted, immaculately kept fortress, keeping the unpleasantness of the real world at bay, focusing only on the small circle under her control.

As she sat looking into the green eyes of the woman who had bandaged fingers and baked cupcakes and sung lullabies, Jenna knew she could never strip away the carefully assembled armor the older woman had woven about herself. Even more, her heart
knew that accepting her mother as she was would add strength to her own struggle for uniqueness. She knew that nothing would be gained by causing pain for this woman who had given her life.

With a smile, she rose from the chair and walked around the table to take her mother into her arms. “I love you, Mama.” And for the first time in her life, she was absolutely sure of the woman she had become.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Teal Heels

The teal heels knew they were not intended for a closet life ... after all, stunning is what stunning does. A toe peeped out of the limo, the slim ankle swiveling to get a feel for the city sidewalk ... and a long sleek leg followed it into the spotlight. Spotlight, kleig lights, there were paparazzi all over the place ... the way it goes when legends make comebacks ... in teal heels, no less. Hell, the heels WERE the freaking legend and had been from the first moment they sashayed past the threshold, generating a gasp heard round the world. Teal heels, you see, are not run-of-the-mill or standard fare, but always are quite, quite rare ... cobbled more so by the diamonds glitter edged into the here and there on the heels savoir faire. The spats mused with disdain as the glamour girl smiled and waved ... diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but these heels had damn well MADE this girl.

An Absolutely*Kate/Tess Collaboration ~ Originally published at 6S

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Today

Ten years ago, he fastened a strand of pearls around my neck and ran his thumb along the line of my jaw as he promised me forever.

Last year, he told me I was the center of his world, that he couldn’t imagine life without the feel of my skin beneath his hand as he slept.

Last month, he woke me with the scent of fresh coffee and rose petals before he slid back between the quilts, making me want more and more and more.

Last week, he took me to the ocean and slipped the fabric from my shoulders, drawing me ever closer as we moved to the rhythm of the waves.

Last night, he wrapped me in his arms while he asked me to promise that I would never leave, never make him live a day he didn’t share with me.

Today, he packed his bags and said goodbye.

(Fiction for Six Sentences)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lies

Lies hurt, heal, destroy, rebuild, hide, reveal. They are sturdy things built of fear and love and uncertainty and resolve. Heavy burdens to carry… but sometimes even heavier to lay down. A well-made body of lies can clothe the pain, construct a suit of armor or destroy a soul. With each added block the narrow rift between truth and falsehood becomes less definable, less clearly discerned, less clearly marked… and the way back to the start becomes more maze than path.

This is how it is, you see, that a lie becomes a person … and a person becomes a lie.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Check Please

He walked into the room without so much as a rap at the closed door and without pause or invitation. Slouching into the soft leather upholstery, he claimed a seat of prominence at the long gleaming table. An assistant quickly and quietly moved to close the door left standing ajar in his wake. Sparing not so much as a glance at the folder silently slipped in front of him, he reached past several faces to the carafe of coffee. Unconcerned with the disruption created by his entrance, his presence or his usurping of position, he noisily selected a cup from the tray, the clatter of spoon on china deafening to all but himself. Cup finally to his liking, he reached into his carefully tailored jacket and slipped out the cel phone, fingers beginning to fly across the tiny keyboard as the attorney across the table continued to outline the demise of an empire cherished by his father ... now too long regarded as an amusement by the son.

With a sigh of exasperation, he slammed the phone to the table, looked up, lifted a hand to stop the flow of information and spoke.

"Right. Thousands of jobs lost, bankruptcy, doom and gloom, blah, blah, blah. Where's the check?"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Absence of Fear

She sat quietly, wondering at the absence of fear as they drove through the darkened countryside, she and this stranger…this love who would soon be lover. His scent … pure, crisp, warmly enveloping … had first been inhaled mere hours before and yet he had carried her heart for innumerable ages. For months their thoughts and dreams had knit together across the miles. Now he would possess not only her heart, but her soul… the deepest secrets of a woman strong and fierce… yet now conquered by a mere glance. The shadowy landscape sailed pass the window as she opened her hand in unconscious surrender to this unknown … this stranger ... this man who was the other part of her. Who would she be when it was finished? It mattered not.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hope

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly,
what is most important is invisible to the eye.”
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince


The Little Prince has always been one of my favorite books. Depending upon the translation, it’s not always the most readable of books … but the truths in it have always screamed for my heart’s attention. It has reminded me of what it means to live from the heart … completely abandoned, unashamed, and vulnerably open.

Too often we lose the hope … we forget that there is always more to discover … about ourselves and the world around us. We forget that there is more to dream about. We forget to fling open the doors of our hearts.

Hope is something that rises up inside us with a gentle strength that requires a response. We either respond to it with our hearts or we try to push it down. Trying to push it down is useless … hope is tenacious … hope always finds us. We can either accept its reality … or we can keep slamming the door. We can either open ourselves to the hunger of hope … and the hurt of shattered hopes … or we can continue to battle hope as the enemy. Which is greater … the pain of a hope that wasn’t fulfilled … or the loss of hope itself?

Hope isn’t a peaceful, ordered affair. It is full of chaos, of longing, of wanting, of waiting. Hope is a painful process. There are those who will tell us that a posture of openness and childlike dreaming is utterly ridiculous. They warn us of our impending disappointment. They seldom mention the incredible joy of living a live saturated in hope. They seldom acknowledge that hope nourishes the soul. And they seldom reap the benefits of the overwhelming exhilaration of hope achieved.

I want to be vulnerable, wild, courageous, strong, playful, thirsty, noble, gutsy. I want to have the courage to let hope rule my thoughts. I want to end each day knowing that I lived it with hope and with an open heart.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Romance at the Diner Counter (By Anthony Venutolo)


Deep down, Rebecca couldn't understand why she agreed to go out with a complete stranger. Even though she didn't want to admit it, the girls had a point. All she really knew about the guy was that his name was Steve and he liked eggs sunny-side up. Aside from that, he could be the Anti-Christ for all she knew.

It's been a long day and she was starting to get tired so when she saw Gus escort a party of eight into the dining room, Rebecca hoped he wasn't heading for her station. When he whizzed by her tables, she sighed, and thought maybe the job was taking its toll. From the second Steve left the Emerald City City diner, she ran his plain face through her mind over and over and from what she could remember, he was completely opposite from what she usually went for. He appeared somewhat unkempt, yet clean and was a man of decent size who stood at around six feet -- not a muscle man -- but a natural, everyday guy who appeared broad and strong. Steve also had the smooth complexion of a man half his age, but the brooding scowl of one double. Above all, he looked dangerous. Not menacing like a mass murderer or serial rapist, but the kind of guy that exploded with intense fury when pushed. Unfortunately, the 24 year-old waitress knew the type all to well. She just hoped this one was different. We won't judge this book by its cover, she thought. Yet.


She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror behind the diner counter and tried not to look. She was a mess and the one guy she had a crush on saw her at her absolute worst. Perfect. But then she remembered how honest he seemed. From the moment she took his order, she became amazed by his compelling stare. While most women would run at the thought of an ogling stranger, Rebecca was all too used to it by now and had acquainted herself with some of Las Vegas' weirdest while working there. Remembering big, sad hazel eyes that seemed so sincere and lost, she couldn't help but think Steve's simple-hearted peer was cute.

Rebecca grinned, because she knew what he didn't -- women always notice when a man is watching. Most of the time, though, she didn't watch back. In her two years at Emerald City, there wasn't a rap that Rebecca hadn't heard. The morons -- and that's what Rebecca thought most of them were -- came in a plethora of shapes, sizes and incomes. From the truck drivers who continually beg her to sightsee cross-country to the so-called "high-fashion photographers" who claim they could make her the next Giselle Bundchen, the painfully absurd stories they concocted day after day always amused her. Doctors and those casino execs, however, were especially sleazy and those were the ones she made a point to stay away from.


For example, every time Rebecca had a case of the sniffles, physicians would think nothing of asking her to go back to their office for a little "examination." She always politely declined, and usually said that she already saw a doctor. If they replied, "Oh, that's a shame. I wouldn't have charged you anything," she knew where they were coming from. As for the casino entrepreneurs? They were often in search of an armpiece. Nothing more. Whenever the vein business tycoons needed a flavor-of-the-month to tuck away in a strip condo, they'd slip Rebecca one of their glossy business cards. Always polite, she'd accept them graciously to secure a healthy tip but after they'd leave, the card would be tossed into an unused fish tank in the back of the diner. When you come down to it, they were mostly all the same. That is until Steve showed his face.

Here's hoping he was different. She couldn't wait for later and wondered where he would take her.


BIO: In addition to working as an editor at a daily newspaper, Anthony Venutolo's prose poems and flash fiction has appeared in the online zines Deuce Coupe, Gutter Eloquence, Zygote in my Coffee (both online and print journal), Shoots and Vines (forthcoming) and Six Sentences. He also has an upcoming chapbook of poetry forthcoming from Tainted Coffee Press in 2010. His blog Bukowski’s Basement is chock filled with creative writing, musings, booze news and videos at http://bukowskisbasement.blogspot.c
om.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Walk, Another Look

I saw Chief’s ears perk up and felt her body tense at the end of the leash. The morning was cool, gray and rainy. Neither of us was particularly happy about being out in the elements, but this faithful pup had decided that she belonged wherever I happened to be. Right now, something, whether real or imagined I will never know, had caught her eye and reflexively I tightened my grip on the leash, wrapping it around my palm for good measure. I was prepared for the upcoming outburst; this goofy dog was incredibly predictable. She would first prance on her hind legs, barking hysterically – then she would add intermittent whining to the melody – all the while straining at the leash like a horse chomping at the bit eager to gallop. Yes, I was prepared. The collar was not. It broke away from her neck and she never looked back, darting down the sidewalk and out into the busy street, navigating single-mindedly toward the ravine on the other side.

In the early morning light, with windshield wipers flapping and the reflection of headlights on wet asphalt, the driver’s last minute braking efforts were futile. The thud of metal against black fur was deafening; it seemed that for that instant all other sound was ripped from the air. I saw my sweet puppy fly through the air, tossed like a leaf in the wind. My heart screaming as loudly as my voice, I raced after her, clambering down into the gully where she had landed. Screams shifted to a quiet murmur as I lifted her head, pulling us both from the icy water that had pooled there. The fates would not take her from me today. I would not allow it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Walk

The dog loved walks with her mistress, but she hated the rain. However, she loved her mistress even more than she hated the rain, so here she was padding through the puddles. The rain drowned most of the scents and sounds, leaving her bored with the excursion and a bit off-guard. But wait … there was a hint of something … a fragment of a scent. She began her visual scan, the landscape divided into segments, gradually honing in on the tiny flicker of motion deep in the bushes straight ahead. Now she could smell, hear and see it and her adolescent excitement shoved all thought of stealth and craft from her mind. She tried to be sneaky, really she did, but the barking just seemed to happen all by itself. She knew it made her mistress unhappy, but it seemed that even her best efforts merely calmed the barks to still-frantic yelps.

She strained against her purple collar, pulling the leash taut and then, without warning, it was gone and she was bounding toward her goal unfettered. She caught the edge of the shadow as she raced across the wet pavement, but no consideration was given to slowing. The impact knocked the air from her lungs and replaced her forward motion with a head over heels descent into a stream of icy water. It hurt so much … and she was so very cold. And then her mistress was there, lifting her from the water, murmuring soft sounds and holding her close. Everything would be okay.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Armor Abandoned

One by one, fingers removed the teardrop earrings, their sparkle catching the light as she laid them on the marble top of the dressing table… hands slipped to the nape of her neck, unclasping the pearls warmed by the touch of her skin. Slowly the pins were pulled from the classic updo that had whispered just the right note of elegance and shimmering hair fell to her shoulders. She stood, allowing the simple black sheath to slip silently to the floor…the mask she had hidden behind for this evening now a lifeless shadow. All these touches to manufacture the fa├žade that they … all of them … expected from her.

The armor abandoned, her eyes slowly lifted to the mirror.

No one was there.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Where Ever You Are (Guest Post by Craig Daniels)

Yesterday I looked up from the stained
sidewalk to see your reflection in Macy’s
downtown window, your red hooded wool
cape tightly closed at the neck, your long
brown hair peeking out. I spun around,
hoping to catch you, hoping you’d catch me.


I guess I didn’t turn quickly enough.
You were gone, replaced by a group of
tourists gawking and mumbling about
transient matters, not noticing the
bewildered man in their midst.


Crossing the Third Avenue bridge, I
saw you in a cab by yourself. You looked
into my eyes as you passed, then turned
away without a smile. Was that really you?
Tell me that wasn’t you turning away.


In the park I saw you helping a little
girl fly her kite higher and higher. I rushed
to say I was sorry; I touched a shoulder that
wasn’t yours. “I’m so sorry, I thought you
were someone else,” I effused as I backpedaled
with my head down.


Last night without thinking I cooked
grilled cheese just the way you liked,
chopping fresh basil into a pool of olive oil,
pressing it into the tomato slices before
rolling it in grated cheese. You would mash
it all up on the plate, and eat it with a fork
and hug yourself between each bite.


The leaves turned yellow and crimson
on the Jersey Shore last weekend. I went
down to spend a couple of days with
Audrey. Remember how she used to flirt
with me when the three of us were together?
You’d feign jealousy, knowing all the while
I never noticed anyone but you. She flirted
with me again. I quickly looked for you to
admonish me, but you weren’t there. Maybe
I flirted back.


The snow will fall soon. Audrey has
already asked me to go with her to Stowe.
We used to go there, you and I, for long
weekends. Sometimes we never made it to
the slopes to ski. In front of the fireplace,
you’d play your guitar, singing silly love
songs while I kissed your neck and rubbed
your shoulders.


I lie awake at night remembering how
we’d fall asleep entangled in each other, our
legs twisting, arms roaming, fingers
exploring for the best place to rest. Our
breath and hearts synchronizing, tongues
darting in and out, licking the other’s face.
Always we tried to climb inside the other to
be safe, to be held, to be loved.


Some days go by and I have moments
when I don’t think about you, but they are so
very few. Where ever you are, I send my
love.


by Craig Daniels - flash fiction on the web

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Without A Heart

She had lived with the heart of a romantic for years, always believing, always hoping.

He promised that he would allow nothing to take that from her.

She believed … she hoped … she loved. And for a moment, she glimpsed the magic.

Then he took it from her.

Now she lives without a heart and she knows romance is make-believe.



Originally Published at Six Sentences

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I Let You Fall (Guest Post by Thirsty Desert)

Like a leaf that falls without a reason, you fell from my mind.

Maybe it was intentional, I wanted to rip you out of my existence.

You had turned indifferent and hence you were dead to me.

I needed place for the new leaf to grow and I had to let you go.

You had served your purpose as a reason for a reason but for a little while.

And like any story, you felt tired of hanging on, you turned against nature and vanished off into the darkness.

Thirsty Desert, a copy writer by profession, is currently enjoying all possibilities of writing via blogging at "When he kisses her, passions roar" and frequent contributions to 6S .

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Door to Tomorrow

Ellie shifted in that space between waking and dreaming, finding the place of waking to be as unsure as the dream she had just left. She began a thoughtless stretch, trying to find the where and why before opening her eyes to the new day. Sliding across the sheets, her toes encountered warmth and gradually, uncertainly, she became aware of the warm brick wall at her back … the strong arms surrounding her. Persuaded she was still dreaming, she sighed contentedly and attempted reentry to that place of sleep and peace.

“Good morning, little one.” The words were familiar, resonating with a place she knew from long ago … accompanied by the brush of a breath caressing her shoulder, the tightening of the embrace enveloping her. Her eyes sprang open, taking in the room not her own, yet familiar – the room that mere hours ago had been filled with loss and emptiness - wondering at the comfort and security of this place and this moment that was now. It had been years since these arms held her, since that voice was the one to welcome her into a new day, years that melted away into the sunshine filling the space. In a flash, the confusion fell away and Ellie knew she was exactly where she belonged.

Today would not be an easy day. Today would challenge her in ways that would have otherwise been unbearable. Today ... this day ... opened the door to a tomorrow that was everything her yesterdays should have been.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Ring

The loss of the ring was a small thing really ... simply tucked away somewhere and then forgotten. Days passed and when I thought of it again, it was nowhere to be found ... a mystery for the ages.

I bought the ring for myself ... a particularly determined step of rebellion, a move toward independence. It was the first quality piece of 'real' jewelry that I had purchased for myself and I wore it like a talisman, a reminder to never to back.

Today, years later, I still physically feel its absence from my finger, sometimes glancing over my shoulder for the whisper of the past, but always reminding myself to keep stepping forward.

After all, it was only a ring ... wasn't it?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Unprovoked Rape of the Classical Novel (Guest Post by Adam Whitlatch)

If you came to my house and invaded my office, you would find four overflowing bookcases lining the walls. And if you were a really nosy bastard, you would find volumes in my collection ranging from Stoker to Scalzi, from Hemingway to Heinlein, from King to Koontz. What I promise you will not find there is Seth Grahame-Smith's blasphemous publication Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Pride and Prejudice. . . and zombies. Wow.

Understand that I am a fan of all things related to the living dead, but I think I have finally found my "No, sir, I don't like it" moment. At first I chuckled and put it out of my mind. Surely people wouldn't dignify ...


Adam J. Whitlatch is the author of over sixty works of speculative short stories and poetry, as well as the novels E.R.A. - Earth Realm Army and The Blood Raven: Retribution.
His work has appeared (or is slated to appear) in Six Sentences, Northern Haunts: 100 Terrifying New England Tales, Dead Science, Shroud Magazine, Crossed Genres Magazine, The Drabbler, Vicious Verses & Reanimated Rhymes, Illumen, Unheard Magazine, and Scifaikuest just to name a few.
Adam lives in southeastern Iowa with his wife, Jessica, and their two sons. He is currently studying to become an English teacher.
His blog, Bazooko's Circus, is available for viewing at http://adamwhitlatch.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This Time

I’ve lived life wide open … I’ve trusted … I’ve loved … I’ve given. And every time I got the wind knocked out of me, I got up and brushed myself off and started all over again. Determined to live life wide open and not to miss a thing. That’s how I’ve lived. Yes, I’ve made mistakes. But I haven’t regretted it. I’ve been hurt from time to time but I’ve become a better person for it all. And I’ve had the joy of experiencing things that I would have missed otherwise.

This time I gave more … and I trusted more. I trusted completely. I believed it was safe for me to be totally and completely who I am… no holds barred … no walls… no defenses. Not to the point of putting aside wisdom and reality … and not to the point of being entirely fearless about it … but to a point farther than I had ever gone in my life. This time I cared more than I had ever cared before … perhaps because that incredible amount of trust was there … perhaps because I felt a ‘something’ that I had never felt before … perhaps because I could be so completely me … perhaps because I was foolish.

And this time I learned a bigger lesson. I learned that giving away that kind of trust is foolish. I learned that no matter what the jackpot could have been, nothing will ever be worth that kind of risk again. And I will never open myself up to this kind of hurt again. There is a strong and good and wise and powerful person in me … and if avoiding this kind of pain means that I live with only that person for the rest of my life, then so be it. If it means that I settle for less in order to protect myself, then so be it. If it means that I never feel that kind of love again, then so be it. I still have no regrets ... but the cost is far too high to risk again. To do so would leave nothing except regret.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rocking the World

You've traveled the world, leaving it rocking in your wake, doing impressive things, creating a better place in both small and large ways. You've left markers behind as witnesses that you were there.

You smile at my efforts, underestimate my capabilities, humor me when doing so will avoid conflict. Your list of places seen and contacts made is far more diverse than mine. I am regarded as secondary - an accessory.

I've rocked cradles, kissed boo-boo's, untangled hair and sat through innumerable soccer games, dance recitals, teacher conferences and late night conversations. Today, two amazing young people are determining their own paths, choosing the way the footsteps will fall. One is driven by ambition and fierce determination, grounded on a bottom line that always puts the people in his life first. The other has a heart that is drawn to people with empty places in their souls, empty places longing for a touch like hers. Day after day, she gives - and the giving fills her up - leaving her with a magic sparkle that pulls others into her orbit.

Smile at me ... even laugh at me. The world is rocking in my wake and will be for decades to come ... when your name has been long forgotten.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Gift

My son celebrates his 23rd birthday today ... how incredibly fast 23 years have flown by. I can remember every tiny detail of the day he was born... the day that made me a mother for the rest of my life... the day that since has given me reasons for laughter and tears and hope and despair and teasing and sorrow... but through it all... and looming larger than any of those things... is the love.

He's a young man now... no longer my 'little guy'... but he will always be my baby. He no longer drags around his blankie or his dinosaur... but when I look at him, I can still see that child in him... shadowed behind the man he is becoming. I am so proud of where he is today... of who he's become... of what he's accomplishing with his life. I'm pleased and surprised when I see bits of myself in him... and relieved beyond measure when I see that there are some parts of me that he hasn't inherited.

The letting go is difficult... but the blessing in that is that he's still here even without anything holding him here. We end practically every encounter with an "I love you" and he doesn't seem remotely embarrassed by that. He watches me... alert for any sign of MS trouble... the protector. He knows me extremely well... from the inside out... and he cares. My daughter's goal is to find a man just like her brother.... what greater compliment could there be.

I found out he was going to be a part of my life during Thanksgiving week in 1985... and I've been thankful ever since... thankful and amazed that such an incredible young man was sent to shine light into my world... to show me what love is really all about. It's not all sunshine and bluebirds... but it's always full of wonder and a joy that circumstances can't steal.

Matthew...whose name means 'gift of God'... he has always been that... a very cherished gift.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Breeze

(Guest Post by Craig Daniels)

The breeze found me, delivering Ellen's scent, then continued on its way.

I sat smiling, recognition touching memories, like a child flicking a light switch my feelings rapidly alternated between warmth and chills of excitement.

Out the corner of my eye I could see Ellen's car turn through the gates, roll its way along the winding drive and come to a stop under the Butternut, just shy of the old brick walkway.

Putting down the spiral notebook I had been writing in, I turned my full gaze, my full attention toward Ellen's car, and waited for her to emerge. Often she would spend a few minutes between scenes, allowing frets to drop away, letting one moment pass before engaging the next. Now in the drivers seat, Ellen sat staring straight ahead, hands lightly caressing the steering wheel, seatbelt still in place, gathering the moment.

The car door opened, blue heels touched gravel, pausing for a second, then she stood and faced the window of my study, smiling broadly scrunching her nose while pushing her hair off her shoulder. Her movements were beautiful, colored with mindfulness, deliberate yet spontaneous. Silently I watched her retrieve the shopping bags and head toward the bright cardinal red front door. With a turn of the brass handle she came swooping in, bags in each hand.

I was halfway down the stairs when Ellen zoomed passed, quickly turned in a circle shopping bags extended like a windmill and said, “follow me.” Without a thought I followed, heading into the kitchen.

Ellen set down two huge shopping bags across the dark black granite counter, and busily pulled items from the bags till the counter became hidden in treasures. I watched her closely, she grabbed the first treasure while looking at me, and with animated abandon delivered her pitch pausing just long enough to catch her breath, and to kiss me on the cheek. Ellen gave each item its due then moved on to the next, her hands wrapping and unwrapping, her voice rising at the right place to reel me for the sale.

Her excitement stopped abruptly, she reached for my hand pulling me to the floor and at the same time exploded in laughter. She laughed until tears streamed from her hazel eyes mumbling apologizes for her devolving into a sales pitch. “Forgive me, will you?” she asked in a newly serious tone then broke out laughing once again.

I loved her realization, her laugh and I loved her. We stayed on the floor with legs entwined, listening deeply to the other, long after twilight had turned the room dark.

The breeze returned with the scent of rain and solitude, the world disappeared, leaving just us.

by Craig Daniels - flash fiction on the web

Monday, July 20, 2009

Play

On every side the players of life align ... antagonists, friends, complacent observers. Each new day is a game. The pieces and tokens change. The participants change. The currency changes. Some days each move is a spin of the wheel, other days a roll of the dice, yet other days a simple alternating rhythm. Always the play is in the living, the giving, the taking, the laughing, the crying.

And with every dawn, the odds reset and another fresh turn begins.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Thing Called Family

The princess wrapped in pink slept quietly as the teardrops fell onto her rosy cheeks. Tiny perfect fingers rested gently in the hand of the one who had given birth to her mere hours before. She was a gift, this child. The woman smiled through the tears, knowing that the joy of this child would forever outshine the loss suffered that day.

His words had been casual, nonchalant as he stood by the hospital bed, explaining that once again, he would be leaving … walking away from the tiny newborn girl and the beaming toddler prince who was now a big brother … and from the woman who was their mother. His actions made lies of the words of love he spoke as he turned his back and went away once again. Only this time … this time her heart remained behind, no longer his to carry. And on that day, the three left behind became an unshakable unit … a thing called family.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fanta Banana

(Guest Post by Craig Daniels)

Unmistakably clear, “Fanta Bananas, Fanta Bananas” rolled off the vendors tongue with a Latin flush, her rich lush delivery reaching me across the plaza. “Fanta Bananas, Fanta Bananas” she cried again and again hoping to pierce the self containment hovering over the crowd streaming into Fenway Park, this late spring afternoon.

Across Yawkee Way I watched the vendor repeatedly circle the stainless cart shouting “Fanta Bananas, Fanta Bananas,” for everyone to hear. What on earth was she selling I wondered, and equally perplexing, how would I ever cross the street. Thousands of people clogged the artery in front of me, pushing and jostling each other. I might be swept up in the baseball frenzy, never to be heard of again. Deciding to risk annihilation I stepped blindly into the crowd, and apologized my way across. People shoved me and groped me until finally, I stood face to face with the mysterious woman selling her mysterious wares.

“Fanta Bananas just for you,” she asked staring into my eyes, flashing me a look I felt in my gut. She paused, then deepening her gaze she continued, “they have a delightful flavor from the Fanta soda company.” I smiled at the sales pitch thinking if they were nearly as delightful as she was, I was in for a treat.

I was struck dumb for a moment by the feeling that I knew her, but dismissed the feeling and asked, “Can I get one in strawberry?” “One Fanta Banana with strawberry coming up” she said, and turned poking a banana on a stick deep into a red colored jar. After a few moments she pulled the banana out to reveal a wondrous sight, a deeply red gooey banana glistening like a jewel. The young vendor handed it to me while offering a bunch of napkins with her other hand.

It smelled of fresh strawberries, the fresh smell you only get in a strawberry patch. I bit into it slowly and let the syrup linger on my tongue. Beneath its glistening facade was a slightly gummy texture bursting with an earthy strawberry flavor, so darkly musty it became erotic. I reveled in all the nuances of flavor assaulting my mouth. I sucked and licked trying to extract as much flavor as possible, I didn't want its wicked sensations to end.

All the while I slurped the strawberry banana the young woman stood close to me with her eyes burrowing deeply inside me. She was probing, looking inside me, breaking down my walls, and I didn't care, I was transfixed on the exploding flavors themselves, warming me deeply from head to toe. She smiled.

“What do you think” she asked? “It was wonderful” I expressed while licking my lips hoping to find one last sticky drop to savor. It was then I noticed that the crowds were gone and only the young vendor and I were left in the street. The streets were deserted, no sounds, no roars or cheers came from the ballpark, the area was starkly empty. “What do you look for?” she said in a serious voice, “ people, where are all the people” I asked? “People,” she mocked my nervousness, “what people do you seek?” I really was nervous and started to move my feet up and down slowly getting ready to run, but I didn't run, instead I moved closer to her hoping to gain a physical advantage. “What's going on here and where are all the people” I asked again, while deepening my voice, letting her know I was serious.

Her eyes were pools of calm, inviting me to climb in, but her body was taught like a cat ready to spring upon it pray, I froze for a second and in that moment I lost any hope of gaining an advantage, she pounced, knocking me to the ground. Before I could get my bearings she was pressing her knees into my chest, her hands on either side of my head digging her fingers into my skull and with one quick jerk she turned my head to the left, forcing me to look directly into a swelling ocean wave thirty feet high about to crest, about to crush us both with its salty wall of water. I tried to scream, I tired to shake her off, but she held fast, urging me in repeated shouts to “look beyond the wall, look beyond the wall.” The water hit with a tremendous thump, roiling furiously at it smashed upon our bodies sucking us deep into a hot churning whirlpool of brackish salty sea, teaming with primordial life and, we were gone.

by Craig Daniels -
flash fiction on the web

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Unreasonable Reason

You are the reason my heart beats … because somewhere in this universe your heart beats its own rhythm.

You are the reason I draw each breath … because it’s the same air you breathe, the same oxygen you draw into your being.

You are the reason I lift my face to the sun … because it is the same sun that bathes your world in light.

You are the reason I dream beneath the stars at night … because there I can touch you.

You are the reason I am never alone … because wherever I am, you are there.

You are the reason I wake each morning … because as long as there is another day, there is hope.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dragon Snot

The tiny dragon – well, tiny in dragon speak at least - shuddered from head to toe, shaking his head and swishing his tail discontentedly. Emma, distracted from the orange she was peeling free of its aromatic skin, looked at him curiously, “Silly dragon, what’s wrong… you don’t look at all right.”

In just the nick of time, she ducked behind the tree she had been leaning against, as a giant stream of sticky spray and snot flew across the grass in her direction, the rumble shaking even the leaves above her.

“Of course I don’t look right – what’s right about a dragon with a cold?! I’m supposed to be flitting around the park, nibbling tasty tidbits and listening to the stories people tell … not sneezing and sniffling and suffering …” came the dragon’s plaintive wail.

“Oh, poor dragon … there, there … would you like some orange?”

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ripple In The Wind

He walked through the door with a shuffle that echoed with uncertainty, as if even his feet were afraid to leave the sureness of the floor that grounded him. Rounded shoulders created a shield, protecting his heart… while a downcast gaze kept others from peering into his soul. The impeccably tailored suit fit perfectly, shoes boasted a black sheen, the hair curled slightly at just the right point on his collar… the packaging precisely correct. Slipping the elaborate smiling mask into place, he extended his hand, taking a glass from the passing tray and slipping into the blur, creating no disturbance at his entry.

After all, who would want to laugh with him, or flirtatiously straighten his tie, or cling to his every word… exchange a glance across the room? He was merely a shadow, a slight ripple in the wind… and had been since the day she went away.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Too Big

I'm borrowing a line from Tracy at Ordered Chaos today... and hoping she doesn't mind :)

"Yes, it's all about attitude (having a good one in the face of adversity), but it's also about changing the changeable, recognizing your limits, and letting go when something's gotten too big to hold on to..."

In my "I can do anything... I am invincible" everyday mode of living, it's difficult to allow myself to admit that anything's ever gotten too big to hold on to. Life hasn't always been a picnic... but I've always been a survivor. And I can only remember once in my life reaching the point that something was just too big for me... there was simply no answer but to walk away. Of course, me being me... that point took a long time to reach... much soul searching... a few major trips down Guilt Boulevard... and subjecting myself to more hurt and more pain than anyone should ever endure. But in looking back, I know unequivocally that walking away was the very best choice... and as a result my life has become one filled with peace and confidence again. There are no regrets.

Now once again, something is just too big. Not in an emotional sense... not in a practical sense... but it's just impossible for me to hold on to. No rights... no wrongs... just a series of circumstances that mean that something I would have otherwise held onto with all my strength is now completely out of my reach. It's not even about giving up... that would imply that I ever had it to begin with... it's just about not even being able to get my arms around it. This time there is no walking away... there's nothing to walk away from... and I'm not the one doing the walking. This time it's a letting go... and a determination to do that graciously and not having the first idea how to pull that off.

I want to be loving and supportive and gracious and accepting... and I pray for the strength and the wisdom to do that... because right now... today... I don't even know how to begin.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Too Much Tenderness (Khalil Gibran)

"When love beckons to you follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth......

But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.

Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself."

But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully."
— Khalil Gibran

Thursday, July 2, 2009

No Greater Value

I'm learning that so much of what I believe to just be normal, everyday habits or thought processes... well... apparently they really aren't. Sooooo... does that make me weird? Or silly? Or ridiculous? Maybe.

I was talking to a friend today about sentimental things that moms keep from their children's younger years. The friend's mother had saved all those things... locks of hair, first shoes, photos... but had stashed them away and they hadn't been seen in years. I've saved every imaginable thing from the day my kids had their first ultrasound pictures to last week. Difference is... their things are in boxes that are stashed where they're easy to get to. They drag them out and go through them every so often... and so do I. They're important memories... looking back over them... talking about the experiences... that makes us more of a unit. Every time we take those memories out and look at them, we add to their value.

Then the conversation went wandering... as conversations often do... and I mentioned that I had voice messages saved on my phones from everybody that was important in my life. I always make sure that at least one message from the handful of people I love most is there. The assumption was that I just saved them so I could go back and listen to them if I wanted to, but the reason goes much deeper than that. Most of the messages that I save include an "I love you" from that person... and life is too fragile to risk never being able to hear that again. There is no guarantee that there will be another phone call... or another "I love you"... so I treasure the ones I have. It seemed a very 'normal' thing for me... just something that I do as a matter of routine. To my surprise, it's not something everyone does.

As a child... or technically a 13 year old... I went off to school one morning secure in the sameness of my world. And I came home from school to learn that the daddy I had said "Goodbye" and "I love you" to that morning wasn't there anymore. A heart attack had taken him from my family at 40 years of age. I learned very early that there aren't any promises... that today... this moment is all we know we have... and any given moment could be the last as we know it. I've been blessed with so many wonderful bits of life... especially with people that are precious to me... and I don't want to miss a thing.

I still wander into my kids' rooms after they fall asleep and just watch them... so thankful that they are mine. I covet time with the people...family and friends...I love. I choose to arrange my life around them. I would sacrifice home, career, comfort... anything... for those people. There is nothing with greater value.

I could stay awake just to hear you breathing
Watch you smile while you are sleeping
While you're far away and dreaming
I could spend my life in this sweet surrender
I could stay lost in this moment forever
Every moment spent with you is a moment I treasure
Don't want to close my eyes
I don't want to fall asleep
Cause I'd miss you baby
And I don't want to miss a thing
Cause even when I dream of you
The sweetest dream will never do
I'd still miss you baby
And I don't want to miss a thing
Lying close to you feeling your heart beating
And I'm wondering what you're dreaming
Wondering if it's me you're seeing
Then I kiss your eyes
And thank God we're together
I just want to stay with you in this moment forever
Forever and ever
Don't want to close my eyes
I don't want to fall asleep
Cause I'd miss you baby
And I don't want to miss a thing
Cause even when I dream of you
The sweetest dream will never do
I'd still miss you baby
And I don't want to miss a thing
I don't want to miss one smile
I don't want to miss one kiss
I just want to be with you
Right here with you, just like this
I just want to hold you close
Feel your heart so close to mine
And just stay here in this moment
For all the rest of time
Don't want to close my eyes
I don't want to fall asleep
Cause I'd miss you baby
And I don't want to miss a thing
Cause even when I dream of you
The sweetest dream will never do
I'd still miss you baby
And I don't want to miss a thing
Aerosmith

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Make Believe Brave

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?" - Nelson Mandela

"Make believe you're brave, and the trick will take you far. You may be as brave as you think you are" - from The King and I

I freely acknowledge that one of my greatest fears is that life will expect something of me that I don't want to do. At the same time, I trust my intuition to guide my life in the way that is best... and to always be guarding my well-being. But I know that sometimes that hurts.

Life gets very big sometimes... and choices get very difficult. Logic would say that confidence in the rightness of a decision would make it simple and easy. So often the opposite is true.

Today I am afraid that I am capable and strong and able to make the tough choices life calls for. My strength... the same strength that I have fought for and peeled away layers to get to... that strength is what today makes me know that I can make choices I don't want to make and do what I don't want to do. So today I will make believe that I'm brave.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Burn Brightly

"Life is no brief candle to me. It's sort of
a splendid torch which I've got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."
- George Bernard Shaw

It's reassuring to me to see these words spoken by someone else... to know that I'm not the only person who lives with an almost compulsive urge to wring every moment out of my life.

I often analyze it... try to decide why I'm out there grabbing at moments when those around me don't even seem to notice the days passing them by. Yes, there are some 'logical' reasons. My dad died rather suddenly when I was 13... he was only 40. I learned at a young age that tomorrow was never a guarantee... and that the moment I was living in was the only one I was truly sure to ever have. My mother lived life with a level of joy and enthusiasm that was certainly contagious... she still lives life that way.

But there's something more... something that drives me... not in a negative way... just a quiet voice reminding me to value each day... to treat those around me with gentleness and kindness... to love deeply... to take risks... to have fun... to go for the dreams. I have been blessed to live a life for the most part free of fear... something that I have generally taken for granted... but as I grow older I realize how rare that truly is.

It merely is... a precious gift that I've been given... and I hope that it never changes.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Blackberry Cake

I am blessed to be one of those people who remember the minutest details about even the most trivial of experiences for an incredible number of years. I'm thankful for that because all of those memories have so many things associated with them... and they remind me to look at other people through different eyes... and hopefully to see what their hearts are feeling regardless of what their actions are saying. I think that this is in some ways an inherent characteristic... but more than that, I think it's a learned habit. My mother taught me to cherish the moment from the time I was a tiny thing. She could turn even the most routine thing into something special... something unforgettable... something full of value and meaning.

I grew up in a small town in Northeast Tennessee. Behind our house... over the fence... there was a pasture where cattle grazed in the summer months... beyond the pasture, a creek bubbled along... and beyond the creek, a hill gently rose. The hill was a mix of so many different worlds... some forest, some grassy field, a pond, wildflowers... and mountains of wild blackberry bushes.

"Wouldn't a blackberry cake taste wonderful today?" Those words would leave my mother's mouth on a morning during blackberry season... and of course, my mouth... and my brother's... would immediately start watering. Before we knew it, we were begging "Mama, can we puhleeeeeeze go pick blackberries?!?" And off we would go... pails in hand... to gather blackberries on the hill. We made up the rules as we went... you were only allowed to eat one blackberry for every five you put into the pail... if your pail got full you had to help the other person fill theirs... and you would never, ever tell Mama that you'd been in the pond!!

We'd come back to the house, the proud bearers of buckets of berries. Mama would immediately herd us to the bathtub... then slather us with lotion to combat the sunburn we'd inevitably managed to pick up. And we'd settle in amid the scents and sounds of first a blackberry cake being made... Mama singing as she mixed... and then the incredible smell as it baked. As it baked, my brother and I would sit with the mixing bowl between us... using our fingers to capture every last drop of the delicious batter... whispering about the frog in the pond... and the cow whose tail we'd teased... and the dead tree we'd hidden secret messages in... treasuring the secrets only the two of us shared.

An entire day of memories built simply because Mama said "Wouldn't a blackberry cake taste wonderful today?" And because Mama was (and still is!!) a very wise woman with a repertoire of brilliant questions like that, there are decades of memories... and memories still being created.
My mother gave me so many things I value... and she still adds to that treasure chest... and the most precious of those things are things that I can't put my hand on. They are the memories... the joys... the love... the sureness that in this world there is someone who cherishes me and believes in the person I have been... and am... and will become.

I love you, Mama

Milestone Moments

For most of my life, I've been aware that 'stuff' doesn't have a lot of value for me... or so I believed. I still don't put a lot of value on material things... or financial excess... or the general population's definition of success. But I am becoming more aware that I nurture a sort of reverse materialism deep at my core.

I still have a set of possessions that I take pride in... possessions that in many ways define who I am... and possessions whose loss I believe would impact my sense of self in a huge way.

No, I don't accumulate money in the bank... I'm not driven to be at the top of any career ladder... I don't think that my home has to be decked out in the very best of everything... and I have a personal aversion to 'labeled' clothing... no incredible art collection. None of the things that generally identify a successful member of society.

But I do have a collection of things that I am somewhat dependent on. There's the drawer full of movie stubs... actually two different drawers... ticket stubs that remind me of the movies I've seen over time... and the people I saw them with. The box of show programs and concert tickets under my bed... with reminders of the trips that included those shows... again the people I was with... the dining experiences that preceeded the curtain call. On the bookshelf in the family room is a book my grandfather used to read to me from... it's nearly 70 years old... and tattered and worn... but my grandfather's hands... and his father's hands... touched and held that book as they read to those little people who were important in their lives. The two rocking chairs in my house are aged and carry marks of the years... but four generations of my family have been rocked to sleep in them and I hope for many more.

The salt and pepper shakers we use for everyday meals are over 25 years old... the enamel is chipped and worn. But they are reminders of the shopping trip that my mother and I made together when I first set out on my own... reminders of the talks we had that day and of the incredible sense of independence that she nourished in me.

The china in my china cabinet isn't valuable in terms of dollars and cents... still in my heart it is valuable beyond measure and will always have that place of honor. My mother was the first female in her family to graduate from high school and my grandmother spent her egg money to buy those dishes for the graduation dinner she had for the extended family after the ceremony.

I've spent years with a level of barely concealed scorn nestled in my heart for those who busily collect stuff and prestige in an effort to define themselves. Today I realize that my collection is just as treasured and coveted... my collection is of life experiences... reminders of the people and history that have contributed to the person I am today. It grounds me... reminding me of just how precious life is... and nudging me to keep making those milestone moments... no matter how small they may seem.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Goodbyes

It's no wonder that most of us see partings as negative. As children we are impressed with the idea that "goodbye" is a frightening word... an unknown to be conquered. It looms like a great black hole waiting to swallow us up. First there is the anxiety-clad farewell as parents leave us in the care of sitters... often perceived by a toddler as abandonment. Another goodbye as a mother or father leaves us on the steps of a schoolhouse to conquer a whole new world... one which to a 5 year old seems fraught with monsters of uncertainty. As we grow older we are confronted with the ultimate parting as we lose ones we love to death... a great void that seems to consume those around us. It seems that our lives become saturated with separations... each one leaving its mark on our own existence as we carry with us bits of a life that once was and is no more.

In looking back, I can see those 'goodbyes' as precious gifts... bits of freedom carefully doled out in precise amounts at exactly the proper moments. I have always believed that the greatest good I can do for my own children is to equip them to confidently go forth into the world secure in the knowledge of who and what they are. One of the ways toward this is through a series of goodbyes designed to strengthen and empower them for the time when they move into a life of independence. And though the pain of each letting go sometimes seems unbearable... out of love for them I force myself to continually nudge them from the nest.

Unfortunately, I seem to have placed that principle in a little box all its own labeled "For Children Only"... and in doing so, I've failed to recognize that children are not the only ones who deserve freedom. There are moments when goodbye is the greatest gift we can give to those we love... even greater than the love itself. Love can disguise a multitude of shortcomings, casting a light on our actions that can make even the most self-serving desires seem noble and good. We convince ourselves that we are all-powerful... all-knowing... the answer to the loved one's every need... the missing link that can grant eternal peace and happiness. And instead, in spite of abundant love, we are often the very barrier hindering contentment and well-being for those we care most about.

We cling to beginnings... births, new friendships, marriages... these are the things that we prefer to fill our treasure chest of memories with. But it is the sad times... the hurdles we cross... the pain we face with each loss... the partings... that do us the most benefit. They are the source of strength and character. The goodbyes are what force us to look deep within ourselves and see exactly who and what we are... independently. The goodbyes are what make us the people we are.

Often in saying goodbye, we not only sacrifice a part of ourselves, but also restore to the loved one a bit of themselves.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Borrowed Words

A friend passed these words to me ... a heart song ...

If You Forget Me
(Pablo Neruda)
I want you to know one thing.
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.
If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.
If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.
But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Broken Dreams

I certainly don’t remember submitting a request order for heartache. I’m convinced that had I requested such a thing I would definitely remember it … and probably be due for my next dose of medication … but surely remember it. Yet, here it is, in all its blustering, suffocating hugeness … sucking the air from my lungs, the color from my life, the warmth from even the sun.

Clearly this is a free gift bestowed by a humorless god in need of entertainment for his dreary life on Mt Olympus or in Asgard or wherever deities with too much time on their hands reside. Perhaps there was fine print there in the contract, disregarded in the eagerness and joy of surrender, overlooked by a heart already captured by joy … a heart that would have scoffed at the warning, no matter how large the print.

Broken hearts … those are doable … it’s the broken dreams that humble you.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Explain

How does one explain the moving on … explain that it isn’t remotely about wanting to leave … that there are no greener pastures?

How do you explain that your heart is screaming to stay – to love one more day, to break one more time?

How do you explain that without this abiding passion your life takes on the terrain of a barren desert?

How do you explain the terror of waking alone in a bed meant for entwined bodies?

How do you explain that even with the leaving, the loving remains?

How do you begin to explain that without the leaving you lose yourself?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Not Today

How she wished that just once … just one random day … she could have polished the golden wood floors to a level of perfection that would earn approval. She loved those floors… the magic that could be wielded with a floor buffer … wiping away the imperfections of another day … leaving behind a gleaming surface. Some days she would imagine the scuffs to be the miseries of her heart, relishing the moment of make-believe control as the brushes whisked them away. She cherished the heart freedom of a perfectly gleaming slate, free of any blemish or shadow or jagged edge.

Then there were the hours of patrolling the entrances to the room, guarding against little footprints … daring dust to settle … protecting the perfection … waiting in anticipation for the eyes of the one who mattered most. At last the car pulls into the driveway … a dog barks … a key rattles in the door … and he steps into the house ornamented with the aroma of pot roast and baking rolls.

“Oh … you didn’t get to the floors today?”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Drowning

Writing is the balm that quiets my soul, mends my heart and orders my days. That has been the case for years, actually for decades of my life. It has often been the fuel that powers my struggles and triumphs and joys. Daily morning pages empty my mind of the accumulated clutter and produce a quietness and focus that propels me forward into each new twenty-four hour block. The days when that doesn’t happen lack the centeredness that I have come to depend on. Unfortunately those days have become more and more common over the last months. A notebook a month has been the long-standing goal with tidy stacks of twelve volumes each marking off the years, their multi-colored covers telling of the diversity of the moments stored within their pages. This year’s stack will be a shorter stack, missing volumes.

It isn’t that there has been less living in this year … quite the opposite, actually. There has been more, much more. It is that the living has been full of other things, more compelling things, dominated by the tyranny of the urgent. It isn’t that there are fewer words crying to find their way to paper; the words are still there screaming for release. But there are days when the path to the paper seems too long, too cluttered and too unimportant; those are the days that the words are tamped down, captive in the heart and mind.

Days of attempting to fit writing into orderly boxes dominated by word count goals have clouded my thoughts and slowed my fingers. The specter called “Grade Book” hovers over my shoulder, extinguishing each unique idea and merging my voice into one I don’t recognize … or always particularly care for. Topics filled with words like genetics, enclosure, monarchy and policies threaten to deprive me of all independent creative thought. I am learning, of that there is no question. Not only am I learning about topics that intrigue me, but I am learning more of the process of writing. Except where my heart used to overflow with words, now those words are dictated by concepts like content, organization, style, and mechanics. The experience that was once a spiritual journey has become an academic exercise. I know that it is an exercise that will aid in the journey when the time comes to resume my way along that path, but for today it is merely what needs to be done, one foot in front of the other.

The time will come when the words are allowed to flow freely again. Next year’s stack of journals will hold a full dozen volumes, with a full dozen months on the lines of their pages. Those volumes will not only carry the jumbled thoughts and stories of a mind allowed to wander freely, but also the appreciation of the freedom to simply write. And as an added bonus, as the words fill the pristine sheets, they will carry with them the knowledge gained in the interim. They will be more solid, more tightly written and more sure of themselves as pen meets page. The stories will have a more solid base, more focus on setting and character and a higher awareness of those who will read the words.

There are those who would say that discipline is the key. Wake earlier. Set aside blocks of time. Prioritize my activities. Sometimes those are words of wisdom … and sometimes they are only words. Each day can only hold so many moments and each moment only so many activities. Sometimes we must make difficult choices. So for now, I will study. I will focus on word counts and organization and mechanics. I will learn. I will expand my understanding of the craft of writing so that when the time comes for the words to flow freely again, they will flow in a richer and deeper pattern. Most of all, I will be thankful for the opportunity I have been given to be enriched by the learning of those things.

In the meantime, I am certain that this is how drowning must feel. Lungs too full of the wrong thing, too empty of the right and needed thing. Except this is my soul – full of noise, empty of light – grasping desperately for the feel of a new page beneath the pen in my hand. My soul knows, as always, that tomorrow is just around the corner and the blank pages will wait quietly for my return. Oh, and the words … the words will always be there.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Impressive

Impressive post at 'the small art of words' ... well worth the time for the read.

Acceptance

No one can give away something that they don’t have… and there’s no fault in not having. The fault is in demanding anything of anyone else… especially when your heart knows that it just isn’t there. Life has dealt different hands to each of us… and we each start out with an inherent operating mode imbedded in our souls… which means that we all play the hands that we’re dealt differently. I don’t buy into the ‘blank slate/tabula rasa’ theory. But I DO believe that regardless of what our slate starts out embedded with… it CAN be ‘scraped clean’ ... which is actually the literal translation of the phrase ‘tabula rasa’. We can learn new modes of operation… new ways of thinking… new methods of processing life. But we can only do that for ourselves… we can’t force that on anyone else… and we can’t do it for anyone else.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Again Myself

The day of goodbyes - that's how I've come to think of it. That was the day I began to write – to really write – not just journals, but a story of a life. I needed to know who I was and why I was that particular, unique person. I needed to be reminded of the woman I had been ten years before on that day sunshine filled day I had said “I do.” I needed to know the steps that had brought me eventually to that goodbye. I needed to find myself.

I wiped the tears … eventually … and with quiet determination ventured into the dark, cluttered attic, digging through decades of diaries, journals, sketch pads, photographs and memories, adrift and seeking some anchor for my soul. Sitting there surrounded by dancing dust motes and whispers from the past, I began to find my present and see glimpses of a bright future. I spent hours sitting on the back porch with my grandmother – sipping iced tea, sweet and cold – listening to the stories of the child I had once been and the adventures I had embarked upon. I heard of the fearlessness of a young girl full of determination and courage, tales accompanied by the backdrop of cricket song and cicadas humming in the summer evenings. I saw myself through the eyes of another – eyes wiser and richer than my own with memories and perspectives that had been lost to me. Hours were spent poring over photographs in the high school and college yearbooks, revisiting the years filled with teen angst and insecurity . . . remembering the dreams, the hopes, the possibilities and the magical sense of invincibility. Each story, each photograph, each memory brought not only recollection, but unexplored avenues – each full of opportunities to spread my wings and fly. I began to see not only the woman I was at my very core, but also the woman who could have been had any other forks in the road been chosen. I began to see the woman who could yet be.

Clare, the heroine of my first story, was born on the day of that goodbye those years ago. As she began to take shape in the words flowing from my pen, her story assumed a life of its own – gaining strength and volume and substance as my own journey progressed. Our paths intertwined and parted and met up again repeatedly. Then, in those days of discovery, the idea that others would read the words spilling out of my wanderings hadn’t yet formed. I was merely writing the path of a heart’s traveling. To be here today, knowing that those words are scattered across the globe, nestled here and there, is still almost surreal for me. Each and every step has been an amazement for me - that others would want to read the words – and that so many would so fully connect with Clare and her struggles to be authentic.

Clare is not me; we are not the same person, but we have travelled the same road, as have countless other women across the wide span of history. Looking deep within my own being, I recognized the spirit of women the world over living through the struggle for self and knowing - the same struggle I found myself embroiled in. In seeking to know who I was and to be authentically that person, I found a link of understanding woven through generations of mothers and daughters, wives and lovers – in a range of diverse cultures spanning the entire spectrum. Thoughts captured in written journals, spoken stories and uncovered memories were merely stepping stones to a broader, more generous sense of ‘What if?’ What if, as women, we fully grasped our potential and lived life fully determined to leave no stone unturned? Perhaps Clare is the woman I wish to be . . . perhaps she is the woman so many of us wish to be. Perhaps that is the heart of her appeal.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Blackberry

The rich black of juice staining her fingers brought decades-old memories of the laughter they shared as they climbed the hill, hand in hand, seeking the fullest, most promising berry bramble with its treasure trove of plump berries, guarded by a militia of well-honed thorns. The race to fill baskets to the brim, the need to be the champion of the berry-pickers, the smell of the baking bread made from their harvest… these things all raced through her mind in a panorama of color, sound and feeling. The thoughts of him… her brother… came so clear and strong, carried on the scent of the berry. The moments shared that would have joined hearts in another time now caused a break so clear that its edge sliced the heart… the fruit’s nectar the color of blood.

His back as he walked away filled the picture in her mind.

All this joy, all this pain, carried innocently in the decadent taste of blackberry… the taste of what might have been.


(Originally published in 6S V2, available here.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

He Says

He says that she’s funny and smart and that she makes him believe in himself again.

I stare through tears at the photos thrown across the tabletop… private moments captured now lying exposed in the kitchen light.

He says he didn’t know he could feel so alive.

She is beautiful… with a body that would make angels sing and demons dance… a body that molds perfectly against his… a body that fits where I used to fit.

He says he loves her.

Poor girl.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

H-E-L-L-O

Five small black letters on the screen before her – basic Arial font, 12 point, black on a white background; it was a word she exchanged a dozen times a day, often without any thought at all … with friends, business contacts, even strangers who crossed her path. But this time – this ‘Hello’ – had made her heart stop mid beat, made her need more air, caused the butterflies in her stomach to commence an elaborate dance.

He had carried her heart for decades, for the most part gently and the last words she had heard from his lips had been “I love you” as she walked away. Now in the midst of a typical end-of-day round of the day’s electronically accumulated bits and pieces, the five letters had appeared . . . innocuous glyphs standing quietly beneath the flashing bar on her computer monitor. And there beside those letters, in quiet array, was another string from the alphabet . . . this one spelling his name.

Tears filled her eyes as trembling fingers reached for the keyboard and erased the tiny box.


Originally published at Six Sentences

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Path

In his dream, the road was really simply a country lane, little more than a beaten path if the truth be told. It was lined here and there with the footprints and tears of those who had gone before, mile markers of life’s journey. A careless misstep or thoughtless detour could change the destination – the steps taken with fear leading one direction and those taken with determined courage leading another. Each reached marker filled the traveler with hope, bearing witness that others had passed this way, perhaps carrying similar burdens of regret and longing, but triumphantly reaching this place in which he now stood. As long as one foot landed in front of the other, as long as there was one more bend on the horizon, as long as the song whispered among the leaves, the traveler would continue on. The music in his heart blended with the melodies of those gone before, drawing the map that would bring rest at the end of the journey as he took one more step forward.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Canvas Heart

Because the words can never be spoken, I will write them silently from the canvas of my heart, unshed tears the ink that flows from my pen. Forever I will carry the scroll tucked tightly in the pocket of my being, in that space precisely the shape and warmth and scent of you. The weight of its presence there will at times be a stone … causing me to stumble … even to bring me to my knees, broken on the path. And yet, at other times, on other days, its buoyancy will lift me to the sun, allow me to touch the stars, power the journey to my dreams. Always carefully sheltered and gently carried, the words will color each of my moments, imparting a depth forever unseen, a void shadowed with longing.

Never will I speak these words … but always my heart will know them.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Whisper

The tattered hoodie did little to ward off the icy wind blowing across the water from places unseen, but Emma pulled it tighter just the same, remembering when down jackets and logo-emblazoned fleece protected her from the elements. She lifted her face to the wind, drinking in the freedom while, at the same time, her heart cried for the gentle walls that once were hers. Eyes scanned the horizon, seeking an empty place to park her fears, her anger, her aloneness. Her heart yearned for a silence that screamed of peace, not emptiness. This was her world since they left, since the smiles faded, since the joy evaporated. She was alone in this world without boundaries, without arms to be enveloped in, without warm lips to kiss her goodnight or hands to tuck the blankets in close around her in the warm room that was once her castle. Angrily she shook her head, dismissed the mourning and turned her mind to one more step, one more night, one more tomorrow. Digging her hands deeper into her pockets, shells and stones bruised her fingertips and she smiled a small smile at these few precious things that were truly hers.

Veering away from the shore, she scampered up the clustered rocks until she reached the top, parted the brush that met her there, and then stepped into the small clearing that surrounded the dilapidated bungalow where she now spent her nights. A quick scan assured her that nothing had been disturbed in her absence – the mat was still leaning partly across the bottom of the door and the tattered ribbon was still undisturbed in the window. She slipped onto the porch and pushed open the rickety door, quickly latching it behind her. The largest object in the room was a battered oak table standing in the middle of the space. Emma slung her backpack from her shoulder onto the surface. One by one, she emptied its contents – her journal, the purple marker that barely wrote these days, a lip gloss with the label worn away, her dog-eared copy of Jane Eyre, a half-empty jar of peanut butter, an apple, and a bottle of water – lining her meager possessions up in a neat row. Next she reached into her pockets, bringing out a handful of sea glass and shells, a small chip of rose quartz . . . and the stone. She picked the last item up, balancing it in the palms of both her hands, curious about its size and shape and weight. It seemed much too heavy for a mere stone. She had stumbled across it on the beach, landing face down in the sand and had picked up the heavy orb almost without thought, tucking it deep into her jacket pocket. In spite of its weight, she had almost forgotten about it. Now she examined it carefully, noting the deep indentations on its surface, feeling the warmth radiating from it.

Sitting it aside, she busied herself with preparations for the evening, rummaging a match from the carefully rationed box in the drawer next to the sink and lighting the one candle she allowed herself each evening. She had found the bungalow quite by accident soon after she ran away. Obviously no one had been there in ages, but she had discovered a treasure trove of supplies – matches, candles, canned peaches and pears, a small camping stove, a few cans of milk and jars of apple juice. There was a well-stocked bookshelf and a small bed with a mountain of blankets. She often wondered where they had gone, these people who had created this little hideaway on the cliff beside the ocean. The appearance was that they had simply left one morning and never returned. Just like Mama and Daddy had left that one awful morning.

Sitting on one of the two chairs at the table, she began to munch on the apple from her collection, washing it down with water. Lost in thoughts and memories, she was startled at the thump of something hitting the floor. She leapt off the chair, sinking to a crouch, heart thumping with the fear of being discovered in this place that had become a haven for her. In the silence, her eyes searched for the source of the sound and then noticed the odd stone on the floor next to her. Breathing a sigh of relief, she picked it up and put it back on the table – she must have knocked it off without noticing. Returning to her apple and picking up the beloved Jane Eyre, she started reading the words she practically knew by heart.


This time the thump wasn’t as startling, but she was sure she hadn’t touched the stone or jostled the table, yet there it was on the floor again. Curious, she climbed under the table on her hands and knees, watching the stone rock back and forth in its place there on the wood planks. Slowly, it picked up tempo, shimmying in a circle and as it rolled about, she noticed the small crack, the tiniest breach in the surface. Spellbound, she settled onto the floor, legs crossed, unsure but anxious to see what the stone would do next. Gradually she began to catch glimpses of blue between the spreading cracks and then a small head with sparkling scales emerged.

Emma held out a trembling hand, unsure of this unknown . . . wanting this dream to merge into reality, not to be whisked away into an imagining. The deep sapphire eyes didn’t waver . . . looking into hers as if searching for answers to questions she didn’t yet know . . . reading her heart and soul. Moments stretched to ages and then the wings unfurled . . . causing her to yelp and then clap a hand over her mouth . . . fearful of startling this magic into flight. The little creature squawked as it scampered behind the shards of broken shell, unsure and hesitant – but above all, curious. Emma set her jaw, rolled her shoulders and once again reached a tentative hand toward the skinny little ball of shimmering color, drawn like a moth to flame. Sniffing the air with upraised nostrils, lifting tiny talons, the baby dragon tiptoed forward, nuzzling its face against her outstretched hand with something remarkably similar to a purr . . . its voice filling the lonely places of her being with warmth and belonging as it silently called her by name.